Remember when women of influence were found in the pages of history, and not in an Instagram feed of acai bowls and hashtags? When young girls might have drawn inspiration from Joan of Arc, Simone de Beauvoir and Marie Curie, rather than social media ‘Influencers’ like @JadeyWadey and @Bodylicious? I know it’s hard to compete with people whose talents include commenting on international terrorism (hashtag prayforparis) with the same degree of sincerity as they advise which lipstick to wear on a dinner date (hashtag kissable), but history gives us so many remarkable women to look up to. Why are we regressing at a time when the world could well do with stronger female representation? Maybe this ability to be equally concerned by the plight of refugees and the plight of people on paleo diets is actually a survival technique to help us cope with the modern world? I don’t know, but I doubt our ability to make a kale smoothie look appetising by the deft use of an Instagram filter will save us when the apocalypse comes.
Fortunately (and I think unintentionally, though she’s a hypnotherapist so who knows? Must remember to avoid eye contact in future) Sydney-based sculptor Linde Ivimey has tapped in to this existential crisis of mine with her new exhibition ‘The Shape of Things’, at Martin Browne Contemporary.
Kicking current pop culture fair in its fickle hoohaa, Ivimey has created a posse of heroines inspired by historical accounts of fierce females and obscure warrior women. Sought out for exaltation are Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing Air Force aviator in Afghanistan’s history and the first female pilot in the Afghan military since the fall of the Taliban in 2001; and Jo Carstairs, variously an ambulance driver and mechanic during World War One, co-founder of a popular women’s only car hire and chauffer service in London, and an avid powerboat racer who was named the fastest woman on water – all before her 30th birthday. Seated serenely between these two defiant dames is a hooded character, reclining in a lounge chair of champagne foils. A self portrait of the artist under hypnosis, Titula represents her own subconscious’s ability to protect her from adversity. Friends will tell you she’s a worthy companion for the others.
Rallying together, a coven of topsy turvy dolls gather around their leader Peace Force. With names like Good Grief, True Replica and Found Missing, they personify the confusing world we live in. Quintessentially Ivimey, their alternate personalities are revealed by upending them to expose bejewelled flip sides. This twinning is also seen in the impossible rocking horse Pusi-Tupi, and double headed anthropomorphic figures Prince and Darkness, works that appear to have crawled straight out of a 19th century wonderkammer.
Lit by chandeliers of strung bone, three figures shrouded in Ivimey’s signature weaving ground the exhibition’s ritualistic intent. Seeking relief from above is Regina (Latin for Queen), who raises her hands towards the sky in apparent frustration, while The Magnificat, named for the Virgin Mary’s hymn of praise, offers up her sacrifice. Nearby, an impatient Tempo Kuniklo taps at her watch as if to say “let’s get on with it, ladies.” She doesn’t have time for self-pity.
Looming over the exhibition is a figure Ivimey has engaged with in the past, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, representing Conquest, War, Famine and Death. Interestingly, she has chosen here to recast the four horsemen as puppets dangling from the apocalypse’s fingers, rather than strong beasts pulling the apocalypse forward. Sure, the apocalypse might be playing with us by dangling all this war and conflict in our faces, but in the context of this exhibition it is also possible to imagine the apocalypse as womenkind en masse, with man’s once-glorious wargame now strung up by the balls.